Friday 10 August 2012

The Monsal Trail

Imagine Bakewell in the Peak District, steam trains chugging along through tunnels and then over huge brick built bridges.  Then imagine the steam trains being no more, no rails and a limestone base where the tracks once were, open for walkers, cyclists, wheelchair users and you have the Monsal Trail.

Set in the Peak District, and with just under ten miles of cycling heaven, the Monsal Trail is an absolute must.  It's a few weeks ago now since my wife and I found ourselves at home at the weekend with both kids away.  We've both been on this fitness and slimming plan, and decided to take a ride along the Monsal Trail (Cycling Active had done an article on it a few weeks before and I had been itching to go ever since,  and having been once,  I'm just itching to go back again).

We started at the Monsal Centre at Hassop Station, just outside Bakewell, here an old station has been converted into a Cafe, Car Park, Gift Shop and Cycle Hire.  The Cycle Hire is excellent if you dont have your own bike, they even have trailers for young kids, and electric bikes for Grandma and Grandpa (although they did mention that the electric bikes are booked up well in advance so book early) their details can be found here.

BTW, we turned left at first, rode for a mile or so into Bakewell with my wife telling me I had gone the wrong way (my map reading was bad again), and I hate to say it but she was right and we had to do another of my famous 180 degree about turns after asking for directions.  My wife told me though that shouting at someone is a sign of affection,  guess she really loved the person that pushed into the queue in front of her when shopping the other week.

You travel along from Bakewell towards Blackwell, passing through tunnels (which are lit, but quite dimly, causing my wife to shout "Help I'm Blind" as we entered the first one from bright sunshine to darkness whilst wearing her prescription sun glasses. She then took them off while riding (like a Tour de France specialist), hooked them on the top of her top and when leaving the tunnel, subsequently dropped them causing a major disruption whilst she found them).  As well as tunnels there are old stations (some of which are converted into cafe's, toilets and information centres, others are just platforms on either side of the trail where onlookers watch people pass by) and, of course, the bridges with spectacular views over the countryside.

View Monsal Trail in a larger map

Now one of the tunnels is closed as you approach Blackwell so theres only so far you can go.  However, that doesn't spoil the experience at all.  If like us, you travel by car and then hit the trail by bike, you'll do just under 20 miles by going to the end and then riding back to the car, of course if you go the wrong way you can add another mile or too for fun.

It's pretty easy going with only slight inclines (I guess the old puffer trains would have had trouble back then if it were too steep, so it's good for the old puffer cyclists now).

If theres one, easy Sunday cycle ride, or walk, then this is one for the bucket list.

Above is my wife on one of the bridges having just come out of the tunnel behind her.

The views over the valleys behind me are just spectacular. Excuse my imitation of being a MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra).

Over the coming weeks I plan to try out and blog about other excellent bike rides that we do and update you on my map reading skills as we go. Some will be in the company with my wife (the days when the weather is good), and some on my own (when the weather is more suspect). So check back regularly to see where I have got to next time.

I use a Motoactv to log workouts and rides, check out the details at

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